This article is being reproduced with permission from Woodland Tree Service.
In mid-November, the south experienced an early hard freeze with temperatures dropping into the mid 20’s, causing cold damage to many plants in this area. Because plants need adequate time to adjust to cold temperatures, or harden off, an early frost can leave unprotected root systems, as well as new growth, stimulated by late summer pruning or fertilization, very susceptible.
This year, the mid-south also experienced a frost in late March, after warmer temperatures had already began to stimulate the production of new growth, which caused more damage to the tender emerging foliage.
Signs of cold damage are often not evident until months later, and reduced flowering is common during the following season. Leaves subject to chilling temperatures often appear to be water soaked and wilted, and the tips of narrow leaved evergreens may turn uniformly brown. This year, many of our clients are reporting injury to their crepe myrtles as a result of cold damage. The trees are slow leafing out and many have tip dieback.
Other types of damage caused by these weather conditions include bark splitting – splitting of the stem or bark, typically near the base of a plant. This occurs when the plant begins to come out of dormancy due to unseasonably warm weather during the winter, as was the case in West TN, followed by a hard frost, as we saw in March. With bark splitting, split stems and branches should be pruned to unaffected growth, but if the damage occurs at the crown/base, the plant may not survive.
Frost cracks – a long, narrow and deep crack running up and down the trunk of a tree, may also occur when the changing weather causes a fluctuation in a tree’s contraction rates. We see this often in Japanese Maples, as it is most common in trees with smooth bark.
Desiccation, or drying out, can also occur in the winter months when the ground is frozen beyond the depth of the root system. If the fall has been dry, there may not have been enough ground moisture available to the plant during the winter months. This type of damage is most common in evergreen plants and can appear as discolored or burned evergreen needles and leaves.
As a result of the fluctuating weather conditions, cold damage is now appearing throughout the mid-south. If you notice changes to your plants and trees as they begin to bloom this spring, give us a call to schedule a visit from our Plant Health Care expert, who can properly diagnose the type of damage and begin working on a treatment plan to restore and protect them from further injury.
Woodland Tree Service
1831 Titus Rd
Memphis, TN 38111